- An Indian take
Suddenly narratives over Kashmir have changed for both India and Pakistan where New Delhi extended its horizon up to Azad Kashmir and Islamabad insisted on the entire Jammu and Kashmir. The debate broke out as Indian Parliament endorsed the revocation of Article 370 & 35A and also the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir province on August 5.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and many others in the ruling clique started making stronger statements that the entire Kashmir (including PoK, Gilgit-Baltistan and Aksai Chin) would be an integral part of India very soon, whereas Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown desperations to prove Islamabad’s authority over the region.
Amidst the war of words, an interactive session with a Jammu-based senior journalist was organised at Guwahati Press Club on 23 August, which was brought about through a video-conference at a time when there was rumour that the entire Jammu and Kashmir was under strict internet censorship as a precautionary measure by the government.
Tito Ganju, editor-in-chief of Epilogue, an English newsmagazine published from Jammu, while interacting with Guwahati scribes commented that Article 370 was always a temporary provision in the Constitution of India and the architects of the Constitution were clear about its temporary position.
Recognised as an expert on the Constitution, Ganju was clear that those individuals who argue that Article 370 forms part of the basic structure of India’s Constitution were simply trying to mislead the nation. He added that temporary provision is the weakest one among three provisions (the other two being Special Provision and Transitory Provision).
Talking about the petition filed by India in the United Nations after Pakistan’s aggression, Ganju made it clear that it was strictly on the Pakistani hostility into Jammu and Kashmir with the lone argument of majority-Muslim presence there but it had already become a legal territory of India following the official consent of the Maharaja
Ganju pointed out that the government had the legal and constitutional mandate to deal it in the manner it deems fit. Jammu and Kashmir was under President’s rule and hence the legislative power of the State in accordance with the constitutional provisions lay with the Parliament and the Centre took the route of Parliament to bring in the bill to make necessary changes in Article 367 and Article 372.
The historic decision by the Union government in New Delhi to revoke Article 370 & 35A and reorganise Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories was denounced sharply by various individuals and organisations of India and abroad. The authority has continued the detention of various Kashmiri leaders, wilful restriction of communications and even public movements in the Valley even though normalcy returns to Ladakh and the Jammu region.
Recently around 600 eminent Kashmiri Hindus along with their hardcore supporters welcomed the removal of Article 370 and the reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Displaced Pandits of Kashmir, who are presently taking shelter in various parts of the world, believe that it was the foundation where the prejudiced Kashmiri Muslims flourished in secular India.
Signatories include Anupam Kher, Padamshri Subash Kak, Padamshri Pandit Bhajan Sopori, Padamshri Jawahar Lal Koul, Padamshri Kashi Nath Pandita, PN Razdan, RL Hangloo, Ashok Ogra, Sushil Pandit, Shakti Bhan, Ashoke Pandit, Ratan Parimoo, Ashok Kaul, Hriday Kaul Bharati, Kailash Mehra Sadhu, Kavita Suri, Khema Kaul, Kuldeep Raina, Avtar Krishan Rahbar, Sunil Bhat, Ashok Hak, Kashmiri Khosa, Lalit Ambardar, Ramesh Marhatta, MK Raina, TK Ganjoo, Sanjay Raina, Usha Handoo, Ravinder Raina etc.
Ganju, while speaking about the possibility of return by hundreds of Kashmiri Brahman families to the Valley, commented that the time and situation were yet to be conducive for their return. Asserting that Kashmiri Pandits had suffered genocide and their presence in the Valley had been eventually reduced from cent-per cent to hardly three per cent now, Ganju commented that their homecoming must be addressed in terms of historical aspect rather than a cosmetic contemporary understanding.
Moreover adequate safety, security and dignity should be the cardinal aim of any policy on their return and rehabilitation, he stated. Though Kashmiri Pandits are the aboriginals of the Valley with first and uncontested claim over the resources, their demand for a centrally administered region carved out of Kashmir Valley should be acknowledged, he argued.
Ganju declared that in every foreign attack in Kashmir, Hindu families were made to pay heavily as they were subjected to arson, humiliation and displacement from various localities like Muzzafarabad, Gilgit, Baramulla, Poonch, Rajauri, Mirpur, Bhimber, Kotli, Skardu and others.
In course of discussions, Ganju mentioned Rajatarangini, an authentic historical chronicle on rulers of early Kashmir and its neighbours, written in Sanskrit by Kashmiri Brahman historian Kalhana. Penned some time in 1148- 50, the book has descriptions of Maharaja Jai Simha as the last great Hindu ruler in Kashmir.
Considered as the best authentic work of its kind, Rajatarangini reveals the beauty of Kashmir as comparable to only heaven. A place created by Rishi Kashyap, Kashmir is enriched with mild sunshine, icy cool water, majestic tree-flower-fruits and more.
“Kailash is the best place in the Tri-loka (three worlds namely Swarga, Marta and Patal), Himalayas the best place in Kailash and Kashmir the best place in Himalayas,” narrated Kalhana.
For some time, Kashmir was a part of Mauryan emperor Ashoka’s Buddhist empire. Kashmir then emerged as a flourishing centre for Buddhism when Buddhist scholars, intellectuals and followers frequently visited the place. Ashoka also developed Puranadhisthan (present day Srinagar) and repaired numerous temples, pagodas and old shrines. Later the region was successfully ruled by Kushan emperors, Delhi sultans, Mughal emperors, Sikh rajas and Dogra maharajas.
Rajatarangini has cited Amritprabha, popular queen of Kashmir (wife of Meghbahan), who hailed from Assam (then Kamrup). Another important king of Kashmir, Lalitaditya had maintained a friendly relationship with Kumar Bhaskar Varma, the powerful king of Kamrup (who remained unmarried till his end of life). Harshavardhana, the 7th century central Indian emperor, was common friend to both of them. Then most of the local population in Kashmir was worshippers of Shiva.
Narrating the recent political history of Jammu and Kashmir, Ganju claimed that Maharaja Hari Singh had all moral, ethical and legal rights to decide upon the accession of his kingdom with either dominion (India and Pakistan) and the king duly signed the treaty of accession with the Indian Dominion on 26 October 1947.
The Maharaja was seeking a better deal with both Dominions before finally up making his mind. Pakistan’s aggression through Army regulars and tribal forces into the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir later compelled the Maharaja to seek assistance from New Delhi and eventually he signed the Instrument of Accession (J&K).
Talking about the petition filed by India in the United Nations after Pakistan’s aggression, Ganju made it clear that it was strictly on the Pakistani hostility into Jammu and Kashmir with the lone argument of majority-Muslim presence there but it had already become a legal territory of India following the official consent of the Maharaja.
He also disclosed that the Centre was simply pampering the separatists of Srinagar Valley through kid-glove treatment, prostrating interest of the nation and the supremacy of its Constitution to the whims of Kashmir region. The nation-state over 70 years unfortunately incentivised separatists, including the so-called mainstream political parties of Kashmir region and ultimately continued penalising the nationalists of the region.
The author is a Guwahati-based political commentator.